Cookbook Meal Plan

Well, hello there! I’m a little late in the week, but I have a meal plan for you! This is this current’s week’s plan, and it’s already changed up a bit (but nothing too major), so I thought I should probably share it before the week is over and we move on.

I have a lot of cookbooks, so I thought that I should go through them, and make a list of some easy recipes that we had most of the ingredients for, and slap those bad boys on our meal plan. Among those cookbooks, there are a few that are aimed at the slow cooker. Well, one of the things I enjoy is not being hot, and using the oven in the summer is hot!

August 20th: We had a freezer meal (a pasta bake – it was a surprise haha) with some garlic bread and a salad. I wasn’t feeling well and hardly ate any of it though. 😦
August 21st: From one of the books, we made Mexican beef that we used for tacos (it’s a burrito recipe, technically), some Mexican cauliflower-rice, and some corn (odd, I know). The beef was so good, and so was the “rice.”
August 22nd: It was supposed to be what we had today, but we ended up picking up Red Robin. Kalen had a free burger, and we had to mow and do some chores when we got home, so it was late by the time we would have been able to start cooking. The weather forecast changed up so that’s why we were unprepared haha.
August 23rd: Grilled chicken breasts (bone-in and skin on, brined and seasoned with a barbecue rub from Aldi), grilled asparagus and zucchini, and some potato pierogi. Tonight’s originally planned meal will be shifted to next week or the week after.
August 24th: We primarily eat low-carb (I realize there were more carbs than usual this week, but only at dinner), so I looked through a Keto book we have, and settled on Parmesan pork chops and roasted asparagus, served with green beans. We might do salad instead of the beans though.
August 25th: Another Crockpot recipe, this time dilly beef, salad, and carrots. It called for the beef to be sandwiches, but we’re just eating it.
August 26th: Barbecue pulled pork (hey there again, Crockpot!), salad, and zucchini. Again, it called for it to be sandwiches, but we’re not doing that (unless I made some Keto bread….).
August 27th: Happy Birthday, Kalen! We’ll be ordering pizza and appetizers (probably breadsticks and mozzarella sticks), and Karen is bringing over a cake. It’s gonna be a carb-heavy day, but whatever!

Not sure what next week will look like beyond that. We’ll be eating here Tuesday-Thursday, and Friday we have a wedding. Hopefully the fence is being done Saturday and Sunday (maybe Monday?), but I don’t know. If it is, we’ll feed the guys, so we’ll probably just order out or make something simple. We’ll see.

What’s on your plates?


10 Tips to Make Meal Planning Work for You

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve been meal planning for 6 years now, so I think it’s safe to say that I do have some insight. The day that we (or I) sit down and meal plan is probably my favorite day of the week. I’m a planner/list maker fanatic, so for me it is a fun task to complete. I love finding recipes, figuring out when to have them, and then making the grocery list.

I don’t have a lot going on in my life, okay?

I’ve mentioned to several people that I meal plan, and I’m more often than not met by confusion and asked “why?” when I do so. Aside from the why though, the most asked question I get is:
“But isn’t meal planning hard?”

I’m here to tell you that NO it is not!!! It might seem daunting at first, but once you figure out the best system for you and your family, it’s incredibly easy. So, what wisdom do I have to impart to you? Here you go!

1. Your schedule. Take a look at the week(s) you’re planning for – are there any late nights? Family events? Planned meals out? Look at the schedule and figure out how many meals you will need.
2. Decide how often you want to go grocery shopping. We do a weekly meal plan, because we shop weekly for fresh produce that just doesn’t last as long when purchased in advance (bananas, lettuce, grapes, berries, asparagus, fresh green beans, etc.). Some people I know shop monthly, and others every two weeks. Figure out what works best for you. It’s not a one-size fits all type of thing.
3. Figure out what you have one hand. If you’re like me, you have staples on hand. This is how we keep our grocery budget slightly lower, too. We stock up when something is on sale for a good price (but only if we need it), and then as we get low, watch for sales. This also helps in figuring out what you’re going to make, because you can “shop” from your pantry/freezer. Have a large amount of black beans and brown rice? Make some burrito bowls! Frozen veggies and chicken broth a’plenty? Try your hand at chicken pot pie.
4. Recipes! Pinterest, fellow bloggers, and cookbooks are your friends! Some people find it easier to just search for recipes containing whatever meat they have on hand; others find it easier to flip through their stash of cookbooks.
5. Figure out what day you’re going to make what. Maybe you have a late Tuesday night, so that’d be when you’d want to maybe go for a slow cooker recipe or something easy. I personally save my weekend meals for the more intricate meals I might want to make, such as smoking some meat, or making sous vide anything. Okay, the husband does those things, but you get the idea. I have a standing appointment on Monday evening, so those are the nights we pick something easier to make. We make something more intricate Friday-Sunday, because we have more time and we won’t need leftovers for lunch the next day.
6. I don’t plan lunches or breakfasts. We’re pretty simple here, because it’s just my husband and I. For breakfast, Monday through Friday, we each have two hardboiled eggs, and Kalen has a banana while I have a variety of fruit (typically 1 kiwi, and then two other fruits such as berries, clementines, grapes, cherries, or plums). Lunch can be leftovers, or sandwiches (we just get ham and turkey, and I have tuna, and bread/crackers/carb-free, plus cheese). Weekends we tend to have a later, bigger breakfast (bacon and eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy – you get the idea), so lunch is something snack-y like cheese or fresh vegetables. If you DO plan either of these meals, keep it simple. Oatmeal, egg muffins, frozen waffles/pancakes, muffins, sandwiches, etc. If you’re making something intricate for lunch, you’re more likely to get burnt out on the prospect of meal planning.
7. Make a shopping list – and stick to it! This is a hard one for me. More often than not, I want to stock up on sale items, and I want to buy things that sound/look good that weren’t on the list. We have a budget set for our monthly groceries, and if I don’t stick to the list, guess who goes over that budget? Me. Eat before you shop, or you’ll be more likely to shop with your stomach not your list. We have standing items that we buy each week (this would be the fresh produce mentioned earlier), so those are just a given. But otherwise, we look over the recipes, and see what they call for, which I know is obvious sounding, but you’d be surprised! We have a plethora of spices, we always have oil on hand and various sauces (soy, teriyaki, fish, Worcestershire, hot, taco, buffalo, barbecue…haha), so those are usually items we do not need (they’re things we buy as we get low, even if they’re not being used that week). We keep our freezers stocked well with meat, so that’s usually not a weekly purchase (unless it is on sale, or we’re out). Our first list is a rough draft – I’ll make marks next to the items that we need more than one of (this is usually a veggie or a cheese variety). Once we’ve gone through every recipe and figured out what we need, we write the list out in a way that makes sense for that store/those stores.
8. If you’re able to, shop sales. We have multiple nearby grocery stores, all the same distance from the house and minutes from each other, so I’ll look at the ads for Meijer, Aldi, and two local grocery stores to see who has what on sale. This is hand when stocking up, or when buying multiples. One week a local store might have cream cheese for under $1 each, or chicken thighs for $0.59/pound, so we’ll go there. Other weeks, we might only shop at Aldi. There are weeks we go to all four stores because of sales (this is usually a stock-up week). If this sounds like too much for you, shop at the store you like the best! Again, it’s not one-size fits all. And like I said, we do have a budget, but we also go over it when we stock up, and we’re okay with that hike in spending when it’s for that purpose.
9. Even if you’re not planning lunches and breakfasts, or if your “plan” for those meals is similar to ours, I would go ahead and prep what you can as soon as you get home from the store. Since the two of us go through so many eggs each week, we will use our Dash Rapid Egg Cooker (heads up, that’s an affiliate link) to hardboil two dozen eggs on Saturday/Sunday (it depends on our weekend plans for which day this is done). We also will pre-slice apples for the week (Kalen takes an apple to work each day for after he works out), usually on Sunday, and we store them in a little basket I found at the Dollar Tree around Easter time. If I buy bell peppers or cucumbers, I will slice them up and store them in my Pyrex containers (yep, that’s another affiliate link) to either grab and snack on them while at home, or take with me to work. This is also when I’d mix up any dip (ranch in sour cream, season salt and minced onion in sour cream with a dollop of mayo, Italian dressing seasoning in sour cream…you get the idea) and store that in a Pyrex container from that same set or from this Pyrex set (there’s a trend here – that’s another affiliate link). Prepping produce like this makes it easier for us to eat it, and for it to not go to waste.
10. KEEP IT SIMPLE!!! I cannot stress this one enough. If you are picking a week’s worth of complicated recipes, there’s a higher chance that you will get burnt out and end up eating out. Like I said, we save our more involved recipes for the weekends, which is when we have more time because we’re off on the weekend, but during the week we both work, so it just makes sense to make something easier.

So those are my top 10 tips on how to make meal planning work for you! Drop a comment below to let me know if you have anything to add, or if you found this list helpful at all! And if you have a meal plan up on your blog, share it! I’d love to see what you’re eating!

The Summer Starts to End…

Summertime is FLYING by and it’s really kind of scary to think that 2018 is almost over. Can I slow time down, just a little? Because I feel like there’s so much I need to do this year, and now I have hardly any time left to accomplish any of it. Also, I have done none of it, so there’s that. Go me?

School is going by slowly and is beyond stressful. I’ve been struggling through macroeconomics and I have a sinking feeling that it won’t be finished by the end of the month when the term ends. I’ve been studying, doing the practice quizzes, and the study guide, but while I think I know the material while I’m reading, it makes no sense when I’m taking the quizzes and I feel like I know absolutely nothing. It’s so frustrating. I have never struggled to grasp anything like this before.

We are finally moving forward with fencing in the yard! We had a few companies come out and give us quotes, and after he was talking about it at work, Kalen and his coworkers are going to put up the fence, so we’re saving about $1500-$2000, which is a HUGE plus. We had the utilities marked, and tomorrow Kalen has to drop off the plans/request so it can be approved. I’m praying that they approve it and we can get it up and over with sooner rather than later.

In July, my Mom and Jack adopted a new cat. Meet my sister, Gracie!
She is super cuddly and very vocal about wanting those cuddles!

In July, I celebrated 9 years of dating Kalen. NINE FREAKING YEARS!!! It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long when it feels like just yesterday I met him for the first time.

On Saturday, I had a hair appointment (cut and color, because hello grays!), and actually got a real cut!



I’ve had people say it looks healthier, but my hair WAS healthy. I had been using Monat (it might work for some, but it destroyed my hair), and that’s when I lost my hair like that. So the ends were super thin, and it IS growing back in, but that means that long hair just wasn’t a cute look. It is still thin, as I said, but not scraggly looking, thankfully. Most importantly though: I can still put it back into a ponytail, albeit a small one. Anyway, I love it and it makes styling so much easier! I’ve been using LUS brand products to style, and they are best applied to wet hair so after I rake it in, I scrunch out the excess water, then plop with an old t-shirt, and after I do my makeup or whatever else, I will diffuse it. It’s wonderful.

Side note, it’s not lightened in color, but I had to use that filter so you could see the cut itself.

On that note, this curly girl is about to go to bed, but I will be posting with a budget update (I need to redo it and you know, stick to it this time) and some updates to our grocery shopping/meal planning soon, I promise! Things have been hectic with school and life in general though.

What is your favorite thing about summer? For me, it is the time spent with family, swimming and cooking out and sitting on the deck, talking into the night.

Snapshots of Life

Sometimes an absence can make things seem overwhelming. When I take a break from studying, like I did while we were in Germany, I came home and felt so far behind and pressured that I kind of ignored things for a little bit longer.
I have some unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I’m happy to say that I finally completed and submitted my performance assessment for my Healthcare Values & Ethics class, and passed upon my first submission! Now I just have to get through Macroeconomics and then Microeconomics, and this term will be complete! Now if only I could manage to get in more than four classes per term and finish sooner, things would be great….

I decided that, since I’ve been gone so long with no real updates, that I would just post some random pictures from various “big” events that happened between our return and now. I still plan on doing a post about Germany, but that will take some time.

Here we go!

I’m in a Facebook group for modest dress, and while I don’t wear skirts/dresses 100% of the time, and I DO wear shorts and tank tops, I have some modesty standards. Anyway, there was a challenge for June, so I managed 4 days haha.

There is technically one extra picture of Ellie, but in general I think I have more of Sirius because he tends to sit still more often than she does.

I am a HUGE fan of Anthony Bourdain, and the news of his suicide really hit hard. I had tweeted about it (original tweet HERE) and a friend of mine posted and asked if anyone had for the newscast. I said I did, and the next thing I know (after giving him the okay to share it) I’m being tagged in posts that I was on the news. I joked that I’d be signing autographs later, and no one asked for one. Hmph.

The beginning of June (this was the same day we heard the news of Anthony Bourdain too) saw a visit from family who live in Ireland. Okay, not technically family, but they’re family. Steve, Sarah, Brendan, Maeve (twins), and Saoirse, plus their foster daughter, were here for a week, then in Illinois for a week. So we naturally had to have a huge party! I miss them so much when they’re gone, and I’m really thinking that our next hashtag will be #DubricksinIreland because we’re starting to plan a trip there to visit. The group picture of us outside? Yeah, we were all crowded around my sister, who won her first HQ game (and got a big payout since it was during the NBA finals). It was a great time!

In June I also met a friend of mine from LiveJournal that I’ve known since 2004. Crazy!!!

June was both happy and sad. Meet Loki. Karen found him outside (with an all-black sibling) and noticed that he seemed sick. He warmed right up to her, and she took him to vet. He was about 1.5 pounds, and approximately 6 weeks old. With pneumonia. So, he was put on medicine, and she kept him in her bathroom (she even slept on the floor one night so he wouldn’t be lonely). He seemed to have a hard time getting better. She took him to the emergency vet last Saturday. Sunday she got a call saying she could go get him and he was looking better. She got there, and the vet who took that shift said he wanted to keep him there for another few hours, but let her go see him (she said he didn’t look better). About 15 minutes later she got a call – Loki had died. Even if he could have gotten over the pneumonia, they said they discovered he had a polyp and wouldn’t have been able to keep food down. In those two weeks, she was smitten. Hell, we all were to be honest. My only happy thought is that he knew a loving, warm home. Sweet boy.

We’ve spent copious amounts of time swimming at my Auntie’s house (I don’t remember if this was Memorial Day weekend or Father’s Day weekend, but I think it was Memorial Day).

My feelings on school. The first was taken Monday while waiting for my student mentor to call. The other two were taken on my break at work on Thursday while I was studying. Macroeconomics is not my jam.

My company also had a senior event at a nearby baseball stadium that was a huge success, and we saw some company changes take place (good and bad all in one). So, it has been an interesting month, and now it is over!

How has your summer been so far? Tell me in the comments below!

Control Issues

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I touched on us wanting to save money, spend less, and be stricter with our grocery budget. Upon our return from Germany, I used a few of my lunch breaks at work to kind of make a rough version of a budget since it wouldn’t have been completely accurate to really sit down and see what we spent on groceries, etc., when we were gone for two weeks.

So I did just that. I looked at the list of bills Kalen had given me. I wrote them down in my green notebook. I wrote down the amounts we pay each month, the amount we owe, and the due dates. I wrote down what our monthly income is. I wrote down the amount in our savings accounts. And I tried to figure stuff out.

For us, June meant a third check. We both get paid bi-weekly, each on the same day. That meant we ended up with some extra cash. Kalen received a raise before we embarked on our vacation, and it was backdated to the beginning of April. There was a snag and it didn’t hit until that last check, which would April, May, and two weeks of June. We decided to take that extra amount, after making sure we had left $2800 in our checking (we do that each time we’re paid, as a buffer), and put it towards our lowest balance credit card. With a limit of $3000, we owed approximately $1900. We paid that off, then put $500 to each of our other credit cards, and then put the rest of that into our savings account.

We decided that, rather than take Kalen’s raise into account, we’d continue to use our monthly income as what it was pre-raise, and then the difference in his pay will go to our savings account. With the other card paid off, that also frees up an extra $600 a month to go towards our other two credit cards.

So, I figured that if I posted here what we pay/owe as of 6/14/18/plan, it will help hold us accountable. Spending is a bad habit of mine – I love to shop, and I love to find new things. It is a habit I need to break though, because when/if we’re able to have children, I’d love to be able to stay at home with them and raise them. That will of course result in a loss of income, so the less debt we have – the less I spend, the better we’ll be.

Mortgage: $1193.86
Car payments: $597.95 (owe: $19252.37
Phone payments: $62.71 (owe: $752.48)
Phone bill: approximately $80.00 (we recently lowered our prepaid plans, so the new amount hasn’t been taken out yet)
NIPSCO: $169.00 (we’re on a budget plan)
Car insurance: $77.27/month and $927.20 every 12 months
Comcast Internet: $39.99 but increasing to $79.99
Discover student loan: $50.65 (this is Kalen’s loan) (owe: $4136.76)
Federal student loan: $419.58 (this is Kalen’s loan) (owe: $49657.63)
Hulu & Spotify bundle: $5.00(this is a student price)
Utilities: approximately $95.00 (this is water/sewer/trash)
Backblaze: $15.00
Costco Visa: $800.00 before the Chase was paid off, will be $1100 (owe: $6789.61 with a limit of $7500.00)
Discover: $800.00 before the Chase was paid off, will be $1100 (owe: $16351.45 with a limit of $20000)
Gas: approximately $150.00 monthly (I drive about 45 minutes one way to work, and Kalen drives about 10 minutes one way, and he periodically rides his bike)
Groceries: approximately $400 monthly is our GOAL, and this is without trips to Costco.

Without the mortgage taken into consideration (because I don’t have the total due for that), we owe $98891.05. If you take out the car loans and student loans, we owe $25754.29.

When I first saw any of these numbers, I had a “HOLY SHIT!” moment. I knew we owed money, but damn! The loans – well, we were not the smartest and took out more than we needed, and at the time it was helpful but now we regret that. I will owe a similar amount when I graduate. The car loans are equally stupid. When Kalen got his job, both of our cars were on their last legs, and so we leased our cars. Had we been slightly more patient, and researched more, we wouldn’t have leased. I had leased before and did not want to do it again, but we did not think we had any other option. Rather than turn them in, we took out a loan through our credit union (stupid low interest rate), and we kept the cars. We have prepaid phone plans, so when we needed new phones, we were able to set up a payment plan. Not the brightest idea, but what are you going to do?

Our credit card debt is pretty damn hefty. In our defense, some of that high balance is the result of house expenses, such as a couch and a fridge, and of course the painting of the living room. Could we have waited to purchase those items for a time when we had the cash? Absolutely. However, if we had done that, I wouldn’t be perched on my couch right now, our walls would be nicotine-stained white walls, and we’d be short a fridge. We’d actually be short quite a bit of our furniture.

So my plan/goal (well, OUR plan/goal) is to be more in control of our spending. The $1100 to each card will have the Costco Visa paid off in approximately 6 months. Then we’ll be at a balance of approximately $9900, and by applying the $2200 to that, it will be paid off in about 5 months. This, of course, is dependent on us not using the cards. I’ll be happy just to have the balances down to a manageable amount. Prior to buying a house, we paid them off each month.

Once those are down, we’ll take that money and put it towards something else – I want to put it to the car payments, but as those are the lowest interest rate bills, it would make more sense to put it towards student loans or the mortgage. Of course, this will be determined when the time comes, but it’s nice to have a plan in place.

If we put it towards the Discover student loan, we’d knock that out in 2 months. If you’re following, we’re now 1 year out (and of course, that amount will have changed by then). Following THAT, we could then put the $2200 and the $50.65 to the Federal student loan balance, which would be around $44620.51, and in around 20 months, that debt would be knocked out too. At that point, our cars would be paid off as well, as would our phones. THAT would then give us $3330.89 extra per month.

Of course, this is all without anything coming up, not including any raises or pay cuts, not including any other bills being introduced, and not including interest or other charges. BUT…that means that in about 3 years, we’ll only have our mortgage payment, and of course my student loans once they are in repayment (but then, those could easily be knocked out).

Three years seems like such a long time, but it also seems like such a short time too (around 1.5 years). Saying that in less than 5 years we will be down to a mortgage payment is pretty awesome.

Also, if I am not done with school in 5 years, I am requesting that someone come punch me in the face.

Anyone have any ideas or tips for this plan? I’d love to hear feedback!!!

Back in the States

Remember how I was posting semi-regularly? Yeah, those were the days. I’d happily blame our two week vacation to Germany, but we’ve been back for almost a month now. The reality is that sometimes, life is just busy. During those times, posting took a backseat.

Actually, more than a backseat. It was more like the forgotten bottle of water that rolled under the seat.

Anyway, we’re back! And I’m back! And the trip was amazing!!!

Seriously, it was so much fun, and I’ll make a huge post about it on a different day.

I’m not going to do a big post today either, but you know – I thought you should know that I’m still alive, and did not, in fact, flee to Germany to stay for the rest of my life.

I’ll have some budget updates for you all too, and more meal plans, so stay tuned!!!

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms

I 100% should have taken more pictures as I made these, but I didn’t, so there’s one of it being cooked, and one of it on my plate (which is highly unappetizing to behold, but I promise, it was a delicious plate).

Anyway, I love mushrooms. Kalen? Not so much. He doesn’t know what he’s missing, amiright!? That means these were all for me (spread over a few meals).

I had seen similar recipes while browsing Pinterest, and maybe even the same dang recipe at some point. Why do I say that?

Because it’s simple as can be!

But when I went to make these, I had to wing it. It was a last minute side dish addition that day, and I didn’t have time to seek out those recipes I’d seen before. So I grabbed out a few ingredients that I figured would work well for what I was thinking of, and before I knew it, I was typing up how I made it so I could replicate it over and over again.

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a creature of habit?

Without further adieu, I present to you…

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms
16oz baby bellas, cremini, or button mushrooms, whole (I removed the stems, but did not cut the mushrooms
6-12 cloves of garlic, finely minced (I used 12 – I do not mess around!)
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of cream cheese, room temperature and cut into slices
ΒΌ cup of grated Parmesan cheese (feel free to increase this to Β½ cup of grated Parmesan, because I definitely used a heaping amount)(shredded would work too)
1 cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all of the mushrooms
2. Add the garlic and the mushrooms at the same time, stirring gently to cook. Cook about 6-8 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
3. Add in the heavy cream and cream cheese, making sure the cream cheese melts entirely.
4. Season with salt and pepper, and add in the grated Parmesan cheese.
5. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes more.
6. Serve! This makes 4 servings.

Kalen still insisted that this was gross, because my husband is apparently 9 years old, but it was so so so good!!! It reheated well in the microwave too!

You can also change it up by adding some cooked pasta to it, chopping up the mushrooms (the sauce wouldn’t be able to hang out in the mushrooms this way, but it’d be delicious still!), and even adding in some meat to make it a complete meal. You can easily increase the amount of the sauce to accommodate for the pasta if you like it saucier, or leave it as is.

All I know is that I can’t wait to eat this again, and to play around with it!

Do you like mushrooms? What is your favorite way to eat/prepare them?

Adults Gone Wild: Grocery Budgeting & Meal Planning to Save Money

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Ah yes, the almighty dollar. We are constantly bombarded with various posts and articles about how to save money, what to do to build our retirement fund, and how much debt various age groups are in.

My husband and I both make good money doing work we enjoy. I’m not finished with school yet, so when that day finally comes, I’ll be able to make even more money than I do now. You know, to pay off those student loans. insert disenchanted sigh here.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Regardless of how well we might be paid, we still have the ever-looming debt at this stage in our lives. We do what we can to save money, though. I recently made him go through all of our bills and write them down, along with their due dates. I also requested the amount of anything we owe (credit cards, house, cars, etc.), and then our income (we’re both paid bi-weekly, on the same days). My plan is to go through, see where we can put more money to pay something down sooner rather than later, and other ways we can save. Kalen is the saver, and I am, hands-down the spender.

So, since I’ve seen our debt/bills, my efforts to save have been a little been more intensified. It’s not terrible, and we’re not drowning like I know some people are (I’m not judging – full disclosure, I had to file bankruptcy 7 years ago due to medical bills and working for some very stingy lawyers), but I would like to also have more money to allocate for home improvement (fenced in yard, larger deck, refinish the basement, redo the flooring, new counter tops, new stove and dishwasher…you get the idea), and we both have a list of destinations we’d love to travel to (crossing Germany off that list soon though!).

Plus, does anyone complain about having extra money lying around? I don’t think so.

Photo by on Unsplash

So what are we doing to save? Well, we’ll be working out a budget soon (most likely that will wait until we’re back from Germany). We already meal plan, but we’re going to be stricter with it, because we’re also easily tempted by invitations out, or swayed by delicious looking images we see on Instagram (you know you want to follow me…haha).

But now?

Enter the Grocery Budget!

I’ve already talked about how we eat the same breakfast Monday through Friday (for him, 2 hard boiled eggs and a banana, and for me it’s 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 kiwi, and another fruit, depending on what is on sale that week), so that stays the same.

Our lunches were previously leftovers from the dinner we’d have the night before. However, I also really love to freeze leftovers when we can (like anything pasta/soup/casserole related), and that’s hard to do when we are taking leftovers for lunch. I also decided that it will be cheaper to buy some lunch meat, bread, and cheese and take sandwiches rather than making say…4 pork chops for dinner so that we have lunch. Those other 2 pork chops can be another dinner for us. We have a large stash of meat in our freezers, and I’d like to keep it that way to keep grocery costs down.

So I have been making a list of what we tend to buy each week (this is rough still):
Eggs (min. 2 dozen)-they are all hard boiled for our weekday breakfasts, and we do usually have eggs on the weekends too.
Milk (2x per month)- I don’t drink milk, only Kalen does
Bananas (1 bunch weekly)
Apples (4x per month)
Lettuce (1-2 packs per week)
Zucchini (1-2 packs per week)
Asparagus (1 per week)
Peppers (2x per month)
Cucumbers (2-3x per month)
Tomatoes (2x per month)
Cheez Its (1-2 boxes per month)
Pretzels (1-2 bags per month)
Rye chips (2-4 bags per month)
The Cheez Its, pretzels, and rye chips are for a snack mix I make, and each “recipe” will yield me 2 weeks of snacks for work. I can alter the ingredients though, so I may do that next time.
Cheddar cheese block (4-6 per month)
Mozzarella cheese block (4 per month)
Shredded sharp cheddar (big bag – 1 every other month)
Shredded medium cheddar (big bag – 1 every other month)
Ham from Costco (2 packs – 2 months)
Turkey from Aldi (1 pack per month)
Coffee creamer (1 per month maximum)-I’m the one who uses it, Monday through Friday, and only 2 tablespoons per 20 ounce cup. It’s almond creamer though, so it’s not necessarily the cheapest option.
Bread (3-4 loaves per month)- made or purchased.
Butter (1-2 packs per month)
Bacon (lower sodium is 1-2 packs per month; cheap stuff depends on recipes)-We buy bacon from Costco, for breakfasts. If a recipe calls for bacon, we’ll buy a cheap package from the store – I am NOT using my good bacon to crumble up on some chicken! haha.
Sandwich cheese (1 pack per week)
Cream cheese (1 block per week)
Heavy cream (1 per week)
Sour cream (1-2 per month)
Shredded taco cheese (1 per month)
Coffee (2 bags per month from Aldi) (1 bag per month from Costco)- I use the Costco coffee for my cold brew coffee because we grind it.
Salad dressing (1 bottle per month)
Peanuts (1 per month)- these are the extra large peanuts from Costco, and Kalen takes a little container to work daily.
Breakfast sausage (1 per week)-If that. We buy them and tend to slice them in half.
Kefir (5 per month)-This is for me and I am going to try to stop it to see if it truly does make a difference in my stomach issues.
Kiwi (2 boxes per month)
Clementines/strawberries/blackberries (enough for 5 days per week)
Fresh green beans (1-2 bags per week)
Carrots (10lb bag from Costco 1 bag every two months)
Green tea (1 per month)
Sparkling water
Klar Brun (1 case every 6 weeks)
Ice Mountain (1 per month)
English muffins (2 per month)- if that.

We shop from a grocery list (this was our list for 4/27 and for meals from 4/30-5/9):
fish sauce
canola oil
vacuum seal bags x2
garment rack
woven totes x2
door hooks
drawer organizer
hose pot
6pk solar lights
lunch cooler
romaine 3pk 2.99 @ SVT
bananas 0.39/lb @ SVT
Nathan’s beef hot dogs 3.99 @ SVT
jasmine rice
cottage cheese
sharp cheddar block x3
extra sharp cheddar block
mozzarella block
fresh parsley
produce (sales)

We went to two stores last night: Aldi and SVT (a local grocery store). We spent $20.04 @ SVT (but we rounded up for St. Jude’s so it was $21 even), and $97.59 at Aldi. Yes, there is only two of us. No, that was not all grocery related. Our actual amount spent on groceries was $58.85. Some of what we bought will be stashed in the freezer. Some of what we bought were specialty items that we will use over time. If you are familiar with Aldi, you will know about the Aldi finds. Those were $58.78 with tax of what we spent.

SVT ($20.04):
Thai fish sauce=$2.89
chicken thighs (11.11 lbs in two packages @ 0.88/lb)=$9.78 (these will be frozen for future meals)
Nathan’s jumbo beef hot dogs (8 pack)=$3.99
fresh parsley, 1 bunch=0.79
bananas (2.79 lbs @ 0.39/lb)=$1.09
donuts (2 @ 0.75 each)=$1.50 (we had these for “dessert”)

Aldi groceries ($38.81):
jasmine rice=$4.39 (I don’t remember the bag size, but it’s probably about 2-3 lbs)
zucchini (2 @ $1.19 each)=$2.38
cottage cheese, 16 oz.=$2.29
mozzarella block=$1.99
extra sharp cheddar block=$1.99
sharp cheddar block (3 @ $1.99 each)=$5.97
romaine hearts (3 pack @ $1.99 each x2)=$3.98
cinnamon apple straws=$2.19 (Healthy? No. Better than cookies? Yes.)
6 pack of raisins (2 @ 0.97 each)=$1.94 (they did not have any big containers, so I had to get these)
Sriracha mustard=$1.19
horseradish mustard=$1.19
salsa ranch=$1.49
spicy ranch=$1.49
asparagus, 1 lb.=$1.99 (the week before SVT head these for $0.99/lb and I wish I had gotten more)
mini sweet peppers=$2.49
canola oil=$1.85

Aldi Finds ($54.93 before tax/$58.78 with tax):
6 pack of solar lights=$8.99
3 pack of large vacuum bags (2 @ $6.99 each)=$13.98
garment rack-$9.99 (to hang our winter coats on in the basement)
4 pack over the door hooks=$3.99 (for guest room and office doors)
2 pack grill and bake mats=$4.99 (I wanted to try these out for veggies, but we may end up using it for pizzas and getting a basket for veggies)
wicker hose pot=$12.99 (our siding is cement/concrete (I never remember) and we did buy a hanging hose holder but we’d have to get special things to hang it, and this looks prettier)

All in all, I don’t think we did too terrible. All the produce will be eaten, the meat will be frozen, the mustards will be used on sandwiches, the cheese is for recipes, the rice will last beyond the recipes we need it for, the ranch will last, as will the canola oil and raisins (they’re for oatmeal), and the cinnamon apple straws won’t be around long haha.

And in an effort to ensure that last week’s produce doesn’t go bad, I’ve prepped that!

Kalen will peel and slice the kiwi (I hack off my finger tips), the strawberries are cut and stored in Pyrex, the mini peppers have the tops cut off, the cucumber is peeled, and sliced, the celery is sliced, and there is a buttermilk ranch dip in the big round Pyrex (I love Aldi’s ranch packets). There’s also a pretty picture of our cheese collection hahaha!!! We snack on a lot of cheese.

And because this is already a long post, let’s just go over our meal plan! As you know, if you’ve been here before, this is only our dinners. We don’t plan breakfasts and lunches.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash & Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

April 30th: Bacon ranch chicken with homemade mac and cheese, and carrots
May 1st: Simple lasagna casserole with a salad and side of keto garlic bread
May 2nd: Thai turkey meatloaf with some veggie fried rice (I’ll be tossing stuff in to use up before we leave so it doesn’t go bad or get tossed)
May 3rd: Baked buttermilk chicken, zucchini, brown rice (might end up having the fried rice if there’s enough leftover)
May 4th: Dinner with family
May 5th: Greek chicken (we’ll grill it if it is nice out), yellow jasmine rice, and zucchini on the grill (again, if we grill)
May 6th: We’ll either pull something out of the freezer (I recently took inventory) or do a quick marinade to grill something. Sides will depend on what we’re having.
May 7th: Chili cheese beef and mac, and asparagus
May 8th: Queso chicken, yellow rice (Vigo brand), asparagus
May 9th: Freezer meal – most likely some frozen pasta bake thing.

The missing days from between the last post and this one are because we pretty much only ate out while the in-laws were here haha. Which was delicious, but my stomach is very grateful to be eating home cooked food again!!!

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into how we’ll be adjusting things to save money, which will show on what I post here. I’m pretty open about money, so I won’t shy away from sharing our progress or setbacks (if we have any). And I’ll be trying to make more frugal meals, but our groceries will still be higher than some who are strict at budgeting because we’re not going to budge on fresh produce, cheese, eggs, or meat.

Tell me, do you follow a grocery budget? If so, how much do you spend per week/month and for how many? I’d love to hear!

Are you there, Spring? It’s me, Amber.

I am exceptionally terrible at sticking to any type of blogging schedule. You’ve noticed, I’m sure.

Before I dive in, I’ll post last week’s meals, and this week’s meals, because I know that’s why you’re here.

April 2nd: Parmesan pork chops and roasted asparagus with salads. These came from this book (heads up, this is an affiliate link!).
April 3rd: I had fasting labs so we ended up snagging some prime rib tacos from Woodfire. So good.
April 4th: Parmesan and pork rind green beans, buttery garlic chicken, and salad. Also from the same cookbook linked earlier.
April 5th: Mississippi pot roast, roasted radishes, and blistered green beans (first two recipes from that same book – it’s a keeper!).
April 6th: We went to dinner with my sister and her boyfriend for her birthday to House of Kobe. Her birthday is the 14th, but my father-in-law and his wife (stepmother-in-law?) will be coming to see us on the 14th, so we celebrated early).
April 7th: We got Thai food from a local place after going grocery shopping.
April 8th: Tonight we’re making some garlic Parmesan chicken wings, baked zucchini sticks, and “fried” green beans. First two recipes are, once again, from that cookbook! Seriously, even if you’re not eating Keto, you need this in your life.
April 9th: Jalapeno cheddar burgers (no bun), Parmesan carrot fries, and fried radishes.
April 10th: Chicken thighs (recipe coming soon!), asparagus, and broccoli/salad.
April 11th: Tacos (beef on corn tortillas), yellow rice, and refried beans. We had taken out some beef for a recipe the other day and didn’t make it so we cooked the meat and froze it. I might actually just turn this into giant taco salads, at least for me – I’m kind of loving the lack of carbs in my diet (my blood sugar is not – hellooooo plunging numbers on occasion!).
April 12th: Baked garlic and paprika chicken legs (there’s that cookbook again!), zucchini, and salad.
April 13th: Dinner at my Mom’s for Ashley’s birthday (chop suey I think).
April 14th: The in-laws arrive, so we’ll be going out! Not sure where yet – guests get to pick!
April 15th: Up in the air. I don’t know if we’ll cook at home, or what is going on.

Okay so, life is life, ya know? I’m behind on my school readings (but getting ahead – life just keeps happening), I’m behind on my to-do list in preparation for our guests, and I am behind on my weight loss (as in nothing has happened – oops!). But otherwise, things are going great!

I’m still dealing with the animosity from a co-worker, and it might not bother me so much if I wasn’t so sure that she was saying things behind my back (not truthful things either) about my work ethic. It really bothers me, when I know it shouldn’t (my work speaks for itself), but it’s frustrating to know that someone will lie about you just because they dislike you for some reason (truly do not know why either). It is also frustrating because there is a new venture our company is taking on, and I’m excited about it and would like to do more for that side of things, but I have a feeling that she’s spoken so ill of me (and people who are not there a full 40 hours seem to love her) that it won’t happen.

Home-wise, Kalen and I are getting a lot more done around the house. We finally painted some areas of the wall we had to touch up, we cleaned the garage out, and he changed the dryer vent tubing today (it was HORRIBLE and we’re incredibly blessed that a fire did not start).

The Easter decorations have been packed away until next year, and our regular decorations are put back out. I also organized our pantry (I may have mentioned this already).

The first picture has our coffee, some candy canes in the blue bin, and then chips, nuts, pretzels, and pork rinds on the top shelf, and granola bars, fruit snacks, , and crackers on the bottom shelf. The second picture has all of our baking items on the top shelf, an don the bottom we have miscellaneous things like dressing, oils, cans of tuna, and sauces. The third picture has our rice (in the bigger jars we have brown and white), mixes, and pastas on the top shelf, and the bottom is all of the canned goods that are up here. The rest of the stuff is downstairs in the basement.

Kalen’s stepmom is allergic to cats, so before they arrive, I’ll be going and doing a major dusting in their room, washing all the bedding (although we bought new sheets), and of course vacuuming, then keeping the door shut for the duration of their stay. I have some shelves that need to be hung in that room too, and we need to move our drying rack out of there and into the office.

WE also have some pictures to re-frame and hang again, and more to actually frame and hang (may or may not be done before they visit). I’d like to print some wedding pictures (you know, 4 years later…) and frame them and put them out…because you know – we kinda like each other. But only a little bit.

My birthday also happened, and I’m officially 33. Yikes! But, it was a blasty blast, if you will. On my actual birthday, we went to dinner at my Mom’s house (tacos!) and my gifts were cash for a new toilet, and things FOR the toilet…haha! Isn’t it fun being older? The day after, we went to dinner with Ashley and Eric, and the turds paid for us, so that’s why we had Thai food – it was my replacement birthday dinner from Kalen! It was great though, and then of course, Sunday was Easter, so that was a busy day!

This weekend was more relaxing, but still busy. One of these day we’ll get to relax! This week I’d like to finish this class I’m doing, get the house finished and ready, and MAYBE actually crochet something or make some jewelry!

What is a typical weekend like for you? Busy? Relaxing? Let me know in the comments below!

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Slow and Steady and Shot Up with Steroids

Kalen and I have been slowly but surely accomplishing things around the house that we have either put off due to cost/laziness or that we put off because it wasn’t as important as other things. The past few weeks/weekends have been busy for each of us!

Sirius cramming himself on the top of our bed. Ellie perched on an empty box in the basement while we do stuff. What Ellie was watching us do. Is it pretty? No. Is it functional? Yes. I’m excited to get back to making things for Fabulous, Darling!

Last weekend, Kalen had to work on Saturday, so I spent the day at home doing chores. I dusted, vacuumed, did laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, and straightened up in general. Then I went to dinner at my Mom and Jack’s house for corned beef and cabbage, and Kalen met us there. When we got home, we both basically just fell right asleep haha.

Sunday we did our weekly grocery shopping, I made us breakfast (and now I don’t even remember what we had!), and just relaxed at home, which is always enjoyable. Kalen made the sous vide pork, and we had rice and salad on the side. It was really good too!

Let’s do a quick meal plan – a recap and what is coming up!
March 19th: Enchilada meatballs and layered cheese enchiladas with a salad
March 20th: Middle Eastern-inspired chicken thighs with brown rice and a salad
March 21st: Keto Crack Chicken in the pressure cooker (or an Instant Pot, since it’s the same thing and IP is the brand name….) mixed with some whole grain pasta, and garlic Parmesan zucchini on the side.
March 22nd: Bacon, cream cheese, cheddar chicken, rice pilaf, and I had some creamy garlic mushrooms (I’ll post my recipe soon!) and Kalen had salad.
March 23rd: We bought some Irish-style bangers, which I discovered I’m not fond of and I had a frozen chicken kiev while Kalen at the bangers, made some mashed potatoes (I always add some cream cheese to mine), and carrots on the side.
March 24th: Kalen wanted to go out for pizza. Original plan was to have brats with rice pilaf and broccoli/salad, but we went here instead. So good. He got The Joker, I got Choke and Shroom, and we shared some Stoner Bites.
March 25th: Making some cheesy fajita chicken, and probably some yellow rice and/or refried beans. We’ll use some corn tortillas for the fajitas.
March 26th: Low carb taco bake with broccoli/salad.
March 27th: Jalapeno popper chicken casserole with some cheesy quinoa (I will post how I make my quinoa too!), and salad.
March 28th: Jalapeno cheddar burgers with the homemade mac and cheese I shared a few weeks ago (where you boil it in milk), and zucchini.
March 29th: Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole with either leftover sides (if any) or brown rice, and salad.
March 30th: Mexican fiesta at my Mom’s for my 33rd birthday! Happy Birthday to me!!!! And a cake from Dairy Queen. πŸ˜‰
March 31st: Dinner out with Kalen for my birthday – still deciding where to go! Depending on where we go, we might end up going during the week and moving something to today, but we’ll see.
April 1st: Easter Sunday which means dinner with Kalen’s family followed by dinner with my family. His tends to do ham and fresh Polish sausage (his mom is bringing that) and mine does a roasted leg of lamb. I eat at my family’s gathering, and he at his. Lamb is delicious! He disagrees…hahaha!!!

So, weekly happenings? Monday I had a call with my student mentor – I’m really trying to decide what to do when I finish this degree, if I do anything that is. So it was an extra long call. Tuesday I had my first appointment with an orthopedic surgeon regarding my right hand (yay, carpal tunnel!). After getting an x-ray done, she decided to give me a steroid shot into my hand/wrist (with the use of an ultrasound) and gave me instructions to follow up in a month if it is not improved. So far we’re good though, and hopefully it stays this way, because it is no longer waking me up at night, and I can write and you know, function.
The arrow is pointing to the tiniest, cutest little bruise ever from where the needle went in, and the other area is a weird bump I have there, that was there prior to the injection.

Kalen’s dad and step mom are going to be coming to visit soon, so I’m trying to work in time to get stuff together and ready, like cleaning, making sure the bed linens are cleaned (she is allergic to cats, so when they’re cleaned, I’ll be shutting off the guest room to the cats), finishing decorating (we have shelves to hang, and some wall art to hang in there), finish hanging stuff in our room (so they see a completed look, if you will), and just in general straightening and organizing the house (not that it’s terrible now – unless you count the basement). We also need to finish up the office. I believe everything is in there, but it’s still in boxes. I’m hoping though, that since the items are really just drawers filled with school supplies (pens, pencils, highlighters, etc.) and not really “loose” stuff, that unpacking it will be easier. There are also the two boxes of cookbooks/recipe binders that need to be unpacked. We put the shelf unit in there that we’d used to hold those books, so they’re going back there. Ideally such items would be in the kitchen, but there isn’t really room or a good place to make room.

Kalen gave me my birthday gift last night – I have been wanting this before I even knew what it was! Lodge had announced they were starting their Legacy Series, and so I was immediately saying “I NEED THIS!” without knowing the item. It was the Fluted Cake Pan, and then I really needed it! So, enter birthday gift!!!
Isn’t it beautiful!?

I also got this book that I ordered, and I’m excited to make stuff from it.

Okay, now it is time to go curl up under the cover because I’m freezing!
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